Mad Muse: Marchesa Luisa Casati

Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Mad Muse: Marchesa Luisa Casati

Here is another recollection of a famous ball of Marchesa Casati at her Palais Rose in Le Vésinet, previously owned by Count Robert de Montesquiou. Each of the invited guests was given a life-size golden rose at the entrance smelling of rose essence. One of the contemporaries described the splendour of the ball: "We have arrived around midnight in a terrible storm. We thought we had a fairy-tale mirage. The house was surrounded by a string of tiny electric lights. Footmen in sumptuous gold-stitched jackets, satin trousers and silk stockings were seen tromping along the paths. All the stars of the Comédie Française and the most celebrated poets and artists of the day were in the house, in spite of the deluge. The reception was truly astonishingly splendid. She was tall and wore a very tall black hat, dotted with stars. Her face was invisible under the mask, from under which her huge eyes gleamed like diamonds on her arms, neck and shoulders. She walked through the halls, bowing to everyone".

Another contemporary recalls a different ball at the same palace in memory of Count Cagliostro: "Preparations for the feast were grandiose. Before the arrival of guests the palace garden was filled with blazing torches, the tables were overflowing with viands, and the servants were dressed in wigs and suits appropriate to the spirit of the great magician. Who couldn't have been there! Peter the Great, Marie Antoinette, Comte d'Artois... But the action was reversed by the forces of nature themselves, and a thunderstorm began, the lightning seemed about to burn everyone present. There was a terrible chaos, and the guests in terror began to scatter in all directions in torrents of water. Costumes, crinolines, wigs, and makeup were splashed all over their faces in streams. It was a terrible spectacle".

The Marquise is said to have had a malicious temperament and enjoyed amusing herself occasionally, especially as her extravagant antics worked to her image. She preferred to socialise more with men than with women, whom she often ignored. It is said that during a famous masquerade hosted by Casati in memory of Count Cagliostro, the Marquise locked one of the ladies in a wardrobe for the entire evening, in retaliation for trying to copy her costume.

According to the recollections of contemporaries, very often the holding of a ball or carnival coincided with the weather, accompanied by heavy rain and thunder and lightning, which gave the party an even more fantastical vibe.

Luisa Casati's BallLuisa Casati, 1913

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